The last time I spoke with Susan Sarandon, the Wachowskis came up in conversation. I still get a kick out of walking into a room and seeing Sarandon, ready to talk. As long as I’ve been a movie fan, I’ve been a fan of her movies, and she’s had such a great, fascinating evolution as a performer. This time, as I was settling in, I asked her about her recent experience working with Mike Tully on a ping-pong themed movie, and it’s true… you mention ping-pong, and she just lights up. I know Mike from various events like Sundance, where I’ve seen him both as a journalist and as a filmmaker (his “Septien” is pretty grand), and a trip to Ireland to see the cast and crew of “Your Highness” at work, and I was really pleased to hear how enthusiastic Sarandon was about the experience she just had with him. This is a dream project for Mike, and it’s great to see that it’s important to her, too.
Hugo Weaving, on the other hand, is someone I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with before, and I didn’t even think about that before I walked into the room. As I settled in and spoke with her, I looked over at him and was surprised to be suddenly anxious. “OH WOW THAT’S HUGO WEAVING!” is what I was saying inside, because he is so unmistakable, so iconic over the last 20 years. At this point, his work as Agent Smith or as Elrond or in “Priscilla” is so resolutely a part of the cinema landscape that it’s hard to imagine movies without him. He’s one of those guys, one of those great actors who also found just the right projects with just the right parts to allow them to do something permanent. When you look back at this era of commercial filmmaking, there’s Hugo Weaving, smack dab in the middle of it.
Speaking of dream projects, our conversation about “Cloud Atlas” was too brief, but it was obvious that both actors feel strongly about the work, and about their collaborators. Both of them have had good experiences in the past with Andy and Lana Wachowski, and I thought it went well overall. This was a day where I had the kids with me, and during this interview, they sat quietly off to the side, then left when our time was up. I didn’t even think they were paying attention. Toshi said hello to Sarandon when we walked in the room, having met her once before, but that was it. No talk about their work.
It was later, as we were heading down to the lobby to leave, that I ended up in the elevator with Toshi and Allen and Hugo Weaving. And as we rode down, we chatted a bit more, and he seemed to really emphasize again how lucky he feels to have connected with Andy and Lana in the first place as a performer, and how much he enjoys getting the call from them with whatever it is that they have in mind for him to do. At the ground floor, he went one way, we went another. Once we were outside, Toshi looked back after Weaving, having said nothing the entire time we rode down.
I handed over the parking ticket to the valet and turned back to the boys to wait. “Yes?”
“I don’t think you know this, but that guy?”
He whispered it to me like he was telling me a carefully-guarded secret. “That was Megatron.”
And with his volume set to 30, Allen turned to look at Toshi doing a double-take so broad that Hal Roach would have called cut and bellowed “DID YOU SAY MEGATRON?!?!” He repeated the question three more times at the same volume until Toshi confirmed it, at which point Allen pressed himself flat against the glass by the front door to take another look at Weaving, who was talking to someone else in the lobby. “YOU MEAN MEGATRON HAS A BEARD?”
“Cloud Atlas” opens in theaters everywhere on Friday.